Reel Critics: Laughs, tears at 'Marigold Hotel'


John Madden directed the fun-loving Oscar winner "Shakespeare in Love" and the gritty spy thriller "The Debt." He employs his skills somewhere between these two extremes in"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

The story follows several aging Brits needing a cheaper way to live out their golden years. They all end up at a rundown ancient hotel in India. Their disparate lives quickly begin to intertwine in an unexpected way.

Dev Patel is excellent as the young entrepreneur who lures the "elderly but beautiful" to his hopeful enterprise.

Maggie Smith plays a feisty spinster who needs a hip replacement at Third World prices. Tom Wilkinson is a retired judge looking for his lost youth. Judi Dench is a recent widow who's never been out on her own.

These major actors bring a lot of zing to otherwise predictable moments.

The bright colors and chaos of urban India add zest to a story with equal parts of laughter and tears. Overall it's a light hearted effort. But it has enough serious moments to give it the edge needed to intrigue a mature audience.


Dead and Loving It

I was not a fan of the old TV show "Dark Shadows,"but Tim Burton's movie version is a deliciously macabre delight.

In this reincarnation, Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) awakens in 1972 after having been unwillingly turned into a vampire and buried alive 200 years ago. Once the head of a wealthy family, Collins now finds his remaining relatives living like outcasts and the mansion gone to seed.

There's a playfulness to Collins' contact with modern society that charms us. With his deathly white skin, red-rimmed eyes and yellow talons, you would think people would be frightened by this stranger but they accept him, even love him – right up to the point where he sucks down their blood.

It is Barnabas who is terrorized by what he sees – a lava lamp, miniskirts, and Karen Carpenter crooning on TV "(come out, tiny songstress!"). Even the witch Angelique (Eva Green) who sought to destroy him is alive and well too. Everything old is new again.

Burton chose his actors well – Michelle Pfeiffer, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jackie Earle Haley, and especially Helena Bonham Carter play their parts with ghoulish gusto.

While the ending is nothing but special effects gone wild, they are spectacular. Not since the"Addams Family"has creepy been this much fun.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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